Create an operations manual. It’s probably business advice you’ve heard on more than one occasion. If you’re like most solopreneurs, it’s one of the things you skip -- maybe because admin tasks just aren’t what you got into business for, or perhaps because you’re not sure what it is or why you need one.
We’re going to fix that today. Even if you're just starting out, you can benefit from creating an operations manual! Let’s start at the beginning...
What is an operations manual?
Think back to the last time you started a job. You probably received a company handbook. That handbook laid out the company’s mission, rules, and procedures. They're a required read to learn about the company’s expectations for you as an employee.
That document was the company’s operations manual. They built it over time as the company grew, likely adding to it as they found information they need to reference and relay to other people. It helps ensure the people they hire know what to expect and do while at work.
Even if you’re a one-woman show today, an operations manual can save you time, money, and headaches down the line.
Why create an operations manual for your solopreneur business?
There are a few reasons an operations manual might be a wise addition to your solo business.
1. Increase productivity. As your business grows, you'll find your responsibilities do, too. Keeping track of every task you need to do will become impossible if your brain is your only storage system. You'll inevitably start to miss steps in tasks you do on a regular basis. You'll spend hours looking for a document because you don’t remember where you saved it. Soon you'll find you're spending more time fixing mistakes than moving on to the next task. Creating an operations manual will ensure you never miss a task or a step to complete things, saving you time and unnecessary stress.
2. Get organized. Organization should be a top priority as your business grows. It's inefficient to have the tools you need to run your business scattered across a variety of platforms, apps, and devices. You end up wasting precious time trying to remember where the thing you need is, then searching for it across all the places you use for storage. By creating an operations manual, you build a central hub where things are all in one place and easily accessible.
Prepare to grow. Your business goals include growth right? While growth comes in many forms, many times it means bringing people on to help you. These people could be employees, freelancers, or collaboration partners. An operations manual will help you bring them up to speed quickly on what your business is about and how you run it, saving time (and money) in the onboarding process.
What to include in your operations manual
Your operations manual can be as simple or as robust as you’d like. There's no right or wrong answer here. Keep this in mind, though: As your business continues to grow, it is much easier to implement new ideas if there is already a record of how things are currently done.
I know getting started can be hard so I've put together a few suggestions to help you out:
- System or process documents
- Your brand style guide
- Logo files
- Your mission statement + core values
- Links to your systems
- Templates for documents you use often (proposals, contracts, social media graphic templates, etc.)
- Swipe files
- Website and social media links for easy reference
- Information for the courses you've purchased and any membership sites you've joined
The options for items to include in your operations manual are endless. Decide what’s important to keep your business running in top form and put it in your manual.
Where to create your operations manual
I recommend creating your operations manual in a system you already use. I like to access my operations manual from anywhere, so I built mine in Trello. You might find Google Drive, Evernote, Asana, or some other system works better for your business. If you prefer to use a non-electronic operations manual, a binder with dividers is easy to update and copy.
Start building yours today
If your business plan includes growth, it’s never too early to start creating an operations manual. Next time you write and upload a blog post, for example? Take note of all the steps you take. It may seem like a lot of work, but an extra hour or two now can save time in the long run -- and who doesn’t love saving time?
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